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The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art

The Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is the first gallery in the world dedicated solely to botanical art.

Photo of the interior of the Shirley Sherwood gallery

The interior of the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art

The history of botanical art

The earliest surviving illustrated botanical work is the Codex vindobonensis. It is a copy of Dioscorides’ de Materia Medica, and was made in the year 512 for Juliana Anicia, daughter of the former Western Roman Emperor Olybrius.

The emergence of botanical illustration as a genre of art, however, dates back to the 15th century, when herbals (books describing the culinary and medicinal uses of plants) were printed containing illustrations of flowers. As printing techniques advanced, and new plants came to Europe from Ottoman Turkey in the 16th century, wealthy individuals and botanic gardens commissioned artists to record the beauty of these exotics in ‘Florilegia’. At Kew, Sir Joseph Banks employed Franz Bauer as 'Botanick Painter to His Majesty' and also sent artists on plant-collecting expeditions.

As well as being beautiful, botanical illustrations became important scientific records through which plants were named and classified. Franz Bauer had a particularly accurate eye for detail. An image of a pollen grain he drew in the 18th century, using only a basic microscope, was later proved by a scanning electron microscope to be entirely accurate. Other important botanical illustrators include Walter Hood Fitch, who completed 10,000 drawings while working as Kew’s principal artist between 1837 and 1877. Kew still commissions around 100 botanical illustrations a year.

About the collection

Kew’s archives contain 200,000 works of botanical art. These include pieces by 18th and 19th century masters, including Ehret, Redouté and the Bauer brothers, along with works by contemporary artists. 

In 2008, Kew opened a new gallery to display these works alongside pieces from the collection of Dr Shirley Sherwood. Dr Sherwood’s collection includes illustrations by contemporary artists living in 30 countries. Connected to the Marianne North Gallery, and with a carefully controlled interior climate, the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art is the first public gallery in the world dedicated to showing botanical art.

Dr Shirley Sherwood

Dr Shirley Sherwood

Dr Shirley Sherwood travels extensively and has been collecting contemporary botanical illustrations since 1990. Her comprehensive collection from over 200 artists, living in 30 different countries, documents the emergence of a new wave of botanical paintings and the renaissance of their art form. She has written many books on botanical art.

Interested in plants and art since childhood, Dr Sherwood earned her undergraduate degree in botany from Oxford University, then her D. Phil. as part of the research team of Nobel Prize winner Sir James Black, whose group discovered Tagamet, one of the most successful drugs produced for the treatment for duodenal ulcers. 

Dr. Sherwood and her husband James Sherwood, her two sons and five grandchildren all supported the building of the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art which is the only purpose-designed and continuously open gallery in the world which is dedicated solely to botanical art. 


Talks and Courses

We frequently have botanical illustration courses in Kew Gardens. To find out more email adulted@kew.org or call 020 8332 5626.


Botanical prints and books

You can buy botanical art prints from Kew's collection.

Buy botanical art prints

Kew publishes many books featuring botanical art.

Buy Kew books of botanical art

Kew commissioned a set of fine art prints commemorating each decade of Her Majesty's reign selected from works at Kew.

Buy the set of fine art prints commemorating each decade of Her Majesty's reign

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Comments

29 May 2013
Having no artistic ability myself I am always amazed at the details recorded in botanical illustrations displayed in this gallery. It's always fascinating to compare those that match up with some of the real plants I may have seen a photographed in the gardens themselves. It's also great to see any of the journals on display from the early botanists and plant hunters.
25 March 2012
I visited Kew Gardens on a school trip and it was amazing! I absolutely loved all of it and the paintings in the gallery were beautiful. I will just have to go back to Kew Gardens again to see as much as I can. Everything there is just so beautiful!
17 August 2010
Thanks for your comment Peggy. Unfortunately there is no exhibition catalogue for the Bulbmania exhibition. You can find out a bit more about the exhibition here: http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/whats-on/bulbmania-flowers-from-the-kew-collection.htm
16 August 2010
I won't get to see the Bulbmania exhibit in person, but I'm hoping there might be a book or exhibition catalog. Any plans for that? Thank you
2 March 2010
have just read The Art of Plant Evolution, a beautiful book - I wish I could see the exhibition- tricky when you are on the other side of the world!. Does or will aspects of the Shirley Sherwood collection travel and if so - ever to "Down-under" (I run a public art gallery in NZ)
9 November 2009
Dear Ivone, Further to your question below regarding courses, I've emailed you a leaflet from the course organisers, Orient-Express - please contact them to book or if you have any queries. With best wishes, Kew Digital Media Team
1 November 2009
Can we please have a clearer link to this page from the entry to the website. At present on the Garden attractions page this page is linked as "coming soon"
20 October 2009
Hello there, I have been told that Orient-Express Hotels has a worldwide programme of Botanical and Flower Painting Master Classes in different global locations. These classes, I am told, are designed by Dr Shirley Sherwood, same of the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew. Is there any way to find any information on these courses in 2010, specifically any that may be run in South Africa (I know that one of the last courses offered in South Africa was at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town in 2006). I would be most interested in any information you may have. Thanks and Regards, Ivone de Figueiredo
20 October 2009
Thank you for your question. I have forwarded this to the Courses team for information and any response will be posted here. Please note that if you would like to contact anyone in the meantime, you can email our Visitor Information Team at info@kew.org.
12 October 2009
Hi Liz, thanks for your comment. Our event updates for the Shirley Sherwood Gallery are coming soon online. You'll be able to find them in the 'What's on' section under 'Visit Kew Gardens'. Sorry for the wait...
10 October 2009
This is a fantastic showcase for botanical art and artists, but how do you find out what is on in the gallery at the moment? Did I miss a link on Kew's home page?
9 October 2009
Thanks for your feedback. We'll be updating this page shortly with more recent information and updates. This will then result in it being included in the list.
9 October 2009
I agree with the comment above. I'm going to visit the gallery tomorrow but had to search around to find information on the exhibition.
8 October 2009
I have thoroughly enjoyed my visits to this gallery. Why does it not appear in the alphabetical list of attractions nor on any website map - or have I missed it?